Current Affairs youth ministry

Lead by Enabling

Did you catch the Do Something Awards on VH1 last night? Wow. Wow! WOWowow! It was an explosion of fun, music, and celebration of teenagers who… are doing stuff in their communities.

I’m relatively new to discovering but the idea behind their organization is pretty simple. They help teenagers do stuff in their community. Here’s how they describe their mission:

We love teens. They are creative, active, wired…and frustrated that our world is so messed up. harnesses that awesome energy and unleashes it on causes teens care about. Almost every week, we launch a new national campaign. The call to action is always something that has a real impact and doesn’t require money, an adult, or a car. With a goal of 5 million active members by 2015, is one of the largest organizations in the US for teens and social change.

As a youth worker and person who thinks about new ways of ministering to youth all the time, I deeply resonate with that.

They have made their job relatively simple. They encourage teenagers to do stuff without defining what “stuff” should be very much. This empowers their creativity and supports their capabilities. And they get out of the way. Then, for those who need a little more help, they set up national campaigns.

What’s the role of adults? They tee things up and get out of the way!

It’s power is clear. While not a religious organization or “youth ministry” in just a few short years, with a relatively small budget, they have activated millions of teenagers around the country… and their award show is broadcast nationally on VH1 packed full of celebrities celebrating the difference these teens are making. There’s power in their enabling methodology! 

I’m really intriged by this model. Which is part of the reason Marko & I invited Naomi Hirabayashi to come and speak at The Summit. We have a lot to learn about not only massive impact, but also a model of leadership that gets out of the way. It’s so foreign to youth ministry and yet all Gospel-y and youth ministry-y at the same time. It reminds me so much of Jesus sending out his disciples into the villages. (Luke 10)

As I watched their award show last night I loved that none of their “old people” appeared on stage. Their award show wasn’t a showcase of them, it was a showcase of their model of enabling and getting out of the way. They didn’t try to MC it, they didn’t accept any accolades. They just worked to put it on and got out of the way.

Questions: What would your ministry look like if your primary job was to tee things up and get out of the way? Could you lead a microphone-less/platform-less ministry? 

photo credit: Mark Davis/WireImage

Church Leadership

3 Musketeers of Church Staff

three-musketeersThere’s a lot of smack talk about church staffing these days. Senior pastors rightfully elevate the role of various staff members and do their best to put all staff on the same “level” as themselves in people’s eyes. There are even a few places where church leaders will acknowledge that the childrens ministry professional, youth worker, and music minister are equally valuable. Within the non-denomination world this is emerging as a style of government where the paid staff are the elders.

All for one and one for all: Brilliant. Biblical. Awesome.

I agree with the premise. As a person sitting in the pews my family is ministered by all staff pretty much equally. Certainly, there is headship and we acknowledge that one of the staff is “in charge.” But that is really just a role, isn’t it? It’s not that being the leader is necessarily harder or more important. It’s a different role, equally important and dependent to the others. And in many cases each person on staff has an equal level of education while each chose a slightly different career path. So the education argument seems to prove that most staff is equal. Another argument is that the preacher should  get more money than the rest of the staff. Really? As if the stuff taught to the kids and teens isn’t as important as what’s preached? This merely shows the ignorance in the process of how churches work on a week-to-week basis. As someone who has done a lot of roles on church staff I can tell you that there is nothing more or less difficult about preparing a sermon. In fact, its a lot easier than preparing curriculum for 5-6 age levels. So, again, the argument that somehow the person preaching is more valuable to the church organization falls apart. The day-to-day reality is that all of the church staffing roles are equally important.

Don’t believe me? Watch your senior pastors face when you tell him the chidlrens worker or worship leader are AWOL on a Sunday morning.

The real question is… when will that be reflected on pay day?

If church staff are equally valuable to the organization why is there inequality when it comes to taking care of staff? Why does the senior pastor make 2-3 times what the childrens worker makes? Why does that person get perks not available to the rest? Why does that person get more time off? Sabbatical? Conference budget? Book budget? Car allowance? Special tax perks. It may shock you to know that most associate level staff makes less than half what the senior pastor makes… before the perks kick in.

This gets really strange when staff have kids the same age. The staff all have equally important roles but can’t afford to live in the same neighborhood. One family sends their kids to private school, goes on lavish vacations, and never have to worry about their kids getting new clothes. The rest of the staff live paycheck to paycheck. They watch Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and wonder when someone will turn in their house?

I’d like to ask you to consider a new way. What if every pastoral team member made the exact same amount of money? (Perks and all.) What if they weren’t just equal in importance, recognized 1-2 times per year, but were recognized in the one way that would keep those associate level people in the game for life?

Want to attract talent? Pay them. Want to keep staff? Pay them. Want to change a community by having talented people in place for a generation? Pay them.

All for one and one for all. Brilliant. Biblical. Awesome.